Various Artists: Love, Poetry and Revolution (Cherry Red / Grapefruit Records)
Due out 25th November
For Louder Than War Arash Torabi reviews Love, Poetry and Revolution; three discs, four hours of music and a detailed booklet, serving as a journey into the British underground and psychedelic scenes from 1966-1972.
It’s quite incredible how deep the goldmine of the ‘60s underground goes. No matter how many compilations you own, there’s always another one containing even more undiscovered gems, like you’ve hardly even scratched the surface. This brand new box set on Grapefruit Records, Cherry Red’s psychedelic offshoot, delivers four hours of top-notch records from the UK underground, spanning the years 1966 to 1972 in chronological order. Although there are household names such as Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Spencer Davis Group, there are no obvious tracks by those bands included here, and it includes demo versions and tracks not released at the time of recording.
Deep Feeling set the scene on disc one, starting the journey with Pretty Colours, a dreamy / nightmarish trip that’s quite typical of its time (1966), with backwards sound effects, flutes and a chugging rhythm section. The band worked as a launch-pad for its members, who would later find themselves in Traffic (Jim Capaldi), Family, Art and Spooky Tooth. Disc one seems to centre mainly on the period when freakbeat was turning to more sonically adventurous pastures, with the psychedelic influences coming thick and fast. And don’t let the title of this box-set trick you into thinking it’s an entirely mellow collection (although there is a bit of that, amongst the more upbeat tracks, and also elements of pop-psych). The Misunderstood (see video above) deliver a belting rocker of a track with Find the Hidden Door, as do The Drag Set with Day and Night. And The In Crowd’s Am I Glad To See You is similar to the mod-psych groove of The Creation (not represented here).
By the time you get to the second disc, the psych is well and truly in full swing. A post-Winwood Spencer Davis Group open the proceedings with Morning Sun (they’re also on the first disc with Mr Second Class). A little further on, ex-Spencer Davis Group front-man and drummer (Winwood’s replacement, Eddie Hardin and Pete York, respectively) go it on their own with Tomorrow Today, which oddly enough sounds not unlike Traffic. But the real stars of this disc (and possibly the whole set) are The Flies (see video above, with the beautifully Kinks-like Winter Afternoon.
On disc 3, The Open Mind (see video above) give The Stooges a run for their money, with Magic Potion. On this section of the box-set, there’s even more evidence that completely opposing musical styles can often occupy the same space, under the psychedelic banner, and this notion also applies to the current revivalists of the scene. The sequence starting with the cosmic jam of Ritual Dance by Czar and ending with the acid folk set closer, Kevin Coyne’s Evil Island Home, is a rollercoaster ride. Not everyone’s going to love every single selection on Love, Poetry & Revolution. For some, like me, the jamming / lengthy instrumental aspect of psych is an unwelcome guest who stays around for far too long. Thankfully there’s not too much of that here, just on a handful of tracks, including Hawkwind’s Hurry On Sundown (demo version) and the aforementioned Czar.
On the whole, this is a well balanced and diverse selection, with great artwork and a fascinating and informative booklet, which takes you through the trip track by track. Earlier this year, Cherry Red also released the award-winning Scared to Get Happy box-set, digging into the underground scene of the UK in the ‘80s, so Love, Poetry & Revolution compliments that perfectly. Superbly addictive.
All words by Arash Torabi whose author’s archive can be found here (but bear in mind this Arash’s first writing for Louder Than War).